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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for January 2017

Filed In: Family Friendly

Eskape Rooms: Irvine's Brain Teaser Challenge

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Sunday, Jan 29, 2017

Sometimes teens want nothing more than to escape their parents, but I made my kids and their cousins join me in a locked room, where we'd have to cooperate to find our way out. Sounds crazy, right? Actually, it was a blast.

I had the kids join me at Irvine's Eskape Rooms, the brainchild of UCI alumni, Chris Im and Daniel Lee (that's Chris Im in the picture above with the kids). The challenge is to find clues and solve a series of puzzles, unlock cabinets to reveal even more clues until you ultimately solve all the puzzles to unlock the exit within one hour's time.

After a short briefing, we were lead into the room. We watched as the door closed, locked and the countdown clock began.

And oh boy, the pressure was on! Immediately everyone's personalities were magnified. We had the leader who organized the quest, the cheerleader who kept the pace going and encouraged the team, the wise guy who offered suggestions for others to solve and gain the win, the quiet ones who worked in the background. There was some competition for leadership, then we instinctively broke into two small groups and worked different parts of the room in tandem. If you get stuck you can ask for a hint, but if you're competitive like we were, you can save your hint for when time's running out.

And when the time is running out it's better than any action movie. We were yelling, high-fiving, dashing around the room. Talk about adrenalin! Did we win the challenge? Well, we missed it by THAT much. Seconds. Drat!!


Even though we failed the challenge, the best part of the day for me was driving home. Not one kid was on their phone. They were full of enthusiastic storytelling, reliving the experience with laughter and playful ribbing. And THAT was a huge win.

Helpful hints:

  •  Reservations are booked as a private party, so strangers won't join your group. Exklusive. I like that.
  • Keep your squad between 3 and 8 to have the best chance to eskape. We had 5 people and it was perfect.
  • We made sure to show up 15 minutes early to get checked in and briefed. Be warned, you risk losing your adventure if you arrive more than 15 minutes after your appointment time slot, and you definitely don't want to miss out on all the fun.
  • You're in a locked room and the clock is ticking. Go to the bathroom before the challenge. ‘nuff said.
  • Emergency? Claustrophobic? Just tell the gamekeeper, who monitors via video. You'll be let out, no problemo.
  • Want to book a private event? Email or call (949) 387-8073 for a custom booking time.
  • Located at OC Plaza at 575 McCabe Way, Irvine, CA 92614

Book your Eskape Room Challenge today!

Filed In: Dining

House of Blues Anaheim to Open its Doors in March

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Friday, Jan 27, 2017

The trademark House of Blues water tower being lowered as a celebratory blast of thousands of music note-shaped confetti shoots into the air. 

Known for its intimate setting, homey Southern food,  signature folk art, and rockin' musical atmosphere, the House of Blues had been a staple in Downtown Disney for 15 years before closing up shop in May. Thankfully, the loss was temporary and in March, House of Blues will be rocking Orange County once again in its new Anaheim Gardenwalk location. 

The Anaheim locale is the first House of Blues to be built in the US in a decade and at 44,000 square feet will be the biggest and best yet. "With House of Blues Entertainment celebrating its milestone 25-year anniversary, the new House of Blues Anaheim will be the flagship venue for our storied group of music halls. This new venue marks the debut of what we believe will be the most beautiful music hall and dining experience in the country," said Ron Bension, president of House of Blues Entertainment.


The Atrium leading to the main stage features several bars and towering murals by artists such as local Johnny "KMNDZ" Rodriguez.  Rodriguez is well known in LA's Pop Surrealist art scene and the "KMNDZ" moniker alludes to the "undo" option on a MAC, serving as a reminder that we can rectify the past by focusing on the future.  Beyond the Atrium, concert goers will find the main concert hall which has a 2,200 person capacity and includes 14 VIP boxes. OC natives Social Distortion will be performing the opening concert to a sold-out crowd on February 28.  Korn, George Thorogood, Daya, Billy Idol, Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Save Ferris, and Reel Big Fish are just some of the other artists schedule to perform in March. Also inside the new House of Blues is The Parish room is a 400-person venue ideal for up-and-coming artists.  Past up-and-comers who have graced the intimate stages at House Of Blue include Mackelmore and Mumford and Sons. 


Of course, the other part of the House of Blues experience is the food. Lunch and dinner served daily with signature menu items such the saucy, smoky Smokehouse St. Louis Ribs, the Fried Chicken Sliders with their distinctive buttermilk tang, and the spicy Voodoo Shrimp served up over a slice of sweet, jalapeno cheese cornbread. Dessert options include the Bourbon Bread Pudding which is baked with white chocolate and bananas and finished with a bourbon caramel sauce.


At the bar handcrafted cocktails are unique and inspired. The electric blue Kentucky Bubble Bath features Makers Mark bourbon, fresh lemon juice, elderflower liqueur, blue curacao and a bubble topping.  El Viejo is a manly cocktail made with Pisco Porton, creme de cacao, toasted pecan bitters, and garnished with cigar smoke.

Entertainment is served up alongside the tasty food and drinks every day of the week,  including open mic nights on Tuesday and Wednesday and the world famous Gospel Brunch on Sunday.

For more information visit the House of Blues Anaheim website.

The Ride 7D Secret Menu

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Monday, Jan 23, 2017

The Ride 7D, the Irvine Spectrum Center's destination for immersive multi-dimensional thrills, has become quite popular since its opening in 2015. The 3 original rides- Los Banditos, Gigamon, and Zombies! continue to bring back riders again and again to shoot their way to victory while 3D glasses, motion, wind, interactivity, and scoring immerse them in the action. But did you know that The Ride 7D has a Secret Ride Menu as well? Three more rides are available Monday through Thursday and they pack in as much fun and excitement as the originals.

Pirates is classified as the adventure-themed ride out of the trio. It is also the best ride for young children (alongside Los Banditos) who might spook easily. The goal is to BlueJacket Jack fight off pirates and recover lost treasure.

Alien Asteroid is a thrilling experience in which riders join the space patrol fleet protecting Earth to keep a mysterious asteroid field from getting closer to the planet.

Forbidden Mine is the creepiest of the three rides, but to be honest, it isn't nearly as creepy as Zombies! My son, who easily spooks, really enjoyed this ride which took us into an ancient mine taken over by ghouls, ghosts, and mummies. We shot the creatures and zipped through the mine, avoiding targeting the old prospector along the way.


Rides are $10 each but you can ride all three for $20. There is also a discount card which can be purchased for $25 which allows riders to $4 off a ride for 16 rides, $2 off a ride for 6 rides and two 70% off coupons.

New to the regular Ride 7D menu is Road Fighters, a nod to the wildly popular movie Mad Max: Fury Road. The ride is set in the year 2156 where pollution, famine, and war has brought civilization as we know it to an end. This ride is reminiscent of the action-packed scenes in the movie where battles were waged from tricked out vehicles. There are plenty of gruesome foes and fantastic explosions to keep things fun and exciting.

Good to know: If you are prone to motion sickness, the ride operators can turn off the motion function of your chair. I have a fickle stomach and turning off the motion allowed me to enjoy the ride without getting queasy. Breaks in between rides help as well.

Want details on Los Banditos, Gigamon, and Zombies? Check out my original write up on The Ride 7D.

Disclosure: My sona and I received a complimentary 7D experience for the purposes of this feature. All opinions are my own.

5 Best Sunset Spots

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Thursday, Jan 19, 2017

Summer may be the time to hit the surf and sand, but in Orange County, winter is the best time to enjoy the sky.
Cooler temperatures combine with a few more clouds to create breathtaking sunsets. For some reason the clearer air makes the colors more vibrant. The tourists are few, so the stunning sunset show feels like its all for you. 
All you need to do is look to the west at about 5pm to see our winter treat. But of course, some spots are just perfect for settling in and enjoying a sunset Happy Hour.  

The Coliseum Pool Grill - Pelican Hill


People travel from all over the world to enjoy the luxury at The Resort at Pelican Hill. But the delightful view from the Coliseum Pool Grill is only minutes away from Irvine.  

You don't have to be a registered guest to enjoy Chef Oscar Fonseca's menu of fresh, seasonal delights, like the Coliseum Crab Cake. Monday through Thursday, they host a Weekday Wind Down with 1/2 off wine and beer from 3 pm until close. 

Crystal Cove State Beach


Travel south from Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Highway and you'll find a sleepy collection of cottages that is truly a remnant of the past. Crystal Cove State Beach was once a beloved vacation village for generations of families. Now it is open for the public to enjoy. 

Arrive by 3:30 pm if you want to put your name in at the popular Beachcomber Restaurant or bring a sweater and find a spot at one of the beachside tables for your own picnic. 

Crescent Bay Park - Laguna Beach


This little scenic city park in Laguna Beach is off the beaten path. In fact, Crescent Bay Park feels a bit like your own secret spot in the middle of a tourist destination. Walk out to the end of the park and you'll find a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Winter views usually include a clear shot of Catalina Island, 26 miles to the west. If you're lucky, you'll hear the sounds of sea lions on the rocks below.

Skyloft  - Laguna Beach I included a selfie so that you know all of these Sunset Spots have been tested and approved for your viewing pleasure....what can I say, I'm a giver.

SkyLoft Bar has been open for just a little over a year, and is a welcome addition for Orange County sunset aficionados. Even though the rooftop bar is across PCH from the beach, the views of Laguna's Main Beach are extraordinary. They have Happy Hours specials every weekday starting at 3 pm. What better way to toast to the end of a spectacular southern California day than with a Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita? 

Orchard Hills Sunset Hike - Irvine


Who says you have to go all the way to the coast to appreciate a beautiful sunset? 

One of the most spectacular sunset views can be enjoyed right here in Irvine, on the Orchard Hills Loop Trail. The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmark offers guided hikes on this moderate trail which winds through a working avocado orchard and provides fantastic, ridge-top views of Irvine and the Pacific coastline.

No margaritas on this trip. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.

A Hiker's Guide to Irvine

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

Caption: Fire road and hills, Quail Trail, Irvine, California
Credit: L.A. Nature Graphics

By Joe Laing 

The call to come visit Orange County, California might seem simple - the stunning coastline, the
sparkling cities, the glorious weather - but the draw for hikers is especially strong from the city of Irvine, a place where nature and history have shaped outdoor spaces like no other. 

One such extraordinary collection of spaces, where trails lead to mountain forests, rugged seas and rocky canyons, is known as The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Nearly 300 miles of trails stretch across this 50,000-acre preserve, inviting hikers to learn about the area's ranching history, the singular beauty of coastal bluffs and the places where wildlife shelters among giant boulders. 

Here's the real beauty ... that's just the beginning of the adventure open to hikers who come to Irvine. Thanks to an amazing variety of regional and wilderness parks surrounding the city,
hiking enthusiasts can find a different trail, a different terrain and a different view from the top for as long as they'd like to stretch their legs.

To make getting started on Irvine's iconic trails easier, here's a guide to some favorites, based on your hiking personality:

Hiking to Find Spectacular Views: So many trails in and around Irvine fit this bill, but why not try the Sinks Trail at Limestone Canyon Regional Park, trails along coastal canyons and rocky beaches at Crystal Cove State Park or the paths that loop through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, especially the one through Little Sycamore Canyon?



Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, main beach view
Credit: LangunaticPhoto
Source: LagunaticPhoto /


Hiking in the Heart of the City: Orange County, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the City of Irvine have spared no effort to create trails within easy reach of civilization. One epic example is the 22-mile Mountains to Sea Trail which combines hikes through rugged canyons and brushes with five OC cities, with the ultimate reward of Upper Newport Bay at its southern terminus. 

Hiking with Kids: A particular favorite with families is the 3-mile Woodbridge Trail in the heart of Irvine. Young nature lovers will also enjoy a loop through Irvine Regional Park (the park's scheduled night hikes are a special treat). Speaking of scheduled hikes, the docent-led treks into wilderness areas at many of the Irvine Ranch preserves are excellent, so be
sure to check their schedules while in the Irvine area.

 Limestone Ridge Trail in Limestone Canyon on Irvine Ranch
Credit: jdpphoto

Hiking in Search of Wildlife: Created as a 4,500-acre wildlife sanctuary, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park features an 11-mile loop trail with plenty of time to see eagles, hawks and falcons above and glimpses of several protected species along the trail to the top of the ridge. One more spot favored by wildlife-loving hikers is Bommer Canyon, especially on wilderness access days.

Hiking Multiple Trails to Test Your Limits: If you're one of those hikers who loves a good challenge, make your way to the Quail Hill Trailhead in South Irvine. It's a premier access point to multiple trails, so planning a long day's loop will be easy. Depending on your preferred
terrain, the Shady Canyon Trail gives access to the Turtle Rock Trail, the University Trail and the Bonita Canyon Trail, all the way to Newport Beach. You can use the same trailhead to start your trip up Juanita Moe Trail around Quail Hill Preserve, or to take the Quail Hill Loop.

Has this guide convinced you that there's a place to hike near Irvine that appeals to every style of hiker? If you're ready to test your muscles, capture new vacation photos and experience Orange County outdoors at its best, here are some links to more information on Irvine's exemplary trail system:

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. Joe has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years, and greatly enjoys exploring the outdoors. Joe has been camping across the United States, from coast-to-coast, and makes a point to stop at national landmarks along the way. He is also actively involved in numerous campground associations, including RVIA's Go RV-ing committee, as well as travel industry associations.

Filed In: Dining

Elevated American Classic Food at The Stand

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Wednesday, Jan 11, 2017

TLT Food (The Lime Truck) co-founder Murray Wishengrad brings you The Stand, a casual dining experience redefining American classic salads, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and more, created from the finest and freshest ingredients, and with an innovative, gourmet touch. Hailing from a Los Angeles collection of The Stand locations, this is its first Orange County location in Irvine, which opened this past November. I had the pleasure of getting to experience The Stand's yummy offerings curated by culinary director Jason Wishengrad as apart of a beer pairing tasting event with Angel City Brewing. 

I most liked that the atmosphere was relaxed where guests queue up to order and can see the delectable delights being crafted in the kitchen on the other side of a large glass. The Stand has such an extensive menu, that there is something for everyone. Not only does each dish look mouthwatering, but you can really taste the quality and freshness in each bite. I was quite excited to take part in this food tasting/beer pairing since I had never done a beer pairing before. Angel City Brewery provided two cicerones (beer sommeliers) to take us through the beer pairing process. I learned that there are 3 C's to beer pairings: Cut, Complement, and Contrast. Therefore, if the beer is to cut the flavor of the food, it will cleanse your palate with bitterness and carbonation; to complement the food, the beer will have similar aromas or flavors as the food; and to contrast the food, the beer will have opposite, contrasting flavors.

Keep scrolling to see all of the dishes I tasted; my favorites include the Stand Chips and Homemade Guac & Pimento dips, the French Onion Soup Burger (a great burger take on the French dip sandwich), and the Stand Cobbler (which really was on another level - the best frozen custard (brought in from Wisconsin) I've ever had and was perfectly complemented and enhanced by the cobbler and vanilla wafer crust. 

Enjoy The Stand For Yourself


5633 Alton Pkwy #200

Irvine, CA 92618

Phone#: (949) 262-9090


SHAVED SPROUT & FARRO SALAD - shaved brussels sprouts, arugula, farro, dates, pomegranate seeds, almonds, green apples, shaved parmesan, whipped goat cheese, parsley & lemon vinaigrette

EL CAPITAN BURGER - Beef Burger, braised short rib, pickled peppers & onions, fresh guacamole, and chimichurri 

STAND PORCHETTA STANDWICH - house-cured and roasted porchetta, green apple & red onion slaw, bacon tomato jam, chimichurri, arugula, ciabatta & a fried egg

GUAC-ON-FIRE-DOG - 1/4lb big red, guacamole, pickled peppers & onions, cilantro lime aioli, tortilla strips

THE FRENCH ONION SOUP BURGER - double parmesan crusted bun, Gruyére cheese, red wine braised onions & crispy onion strings. Served with a Side of French Onion Soup Au Jus.  

STAND DESSERT COBBLER - Seasonal cobbler, vanilla wafer crust with Wisconsin Frozen Custard 

Filed In: Events

Casting Call for 2017 Pageant of the Masters

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Monday, Jan 02, 2017

Have you ever thought of being onstage in a gorgeous costume under bright lights and summer stars? And can you stand still for 90 seconds? Perfect! You could be a Pageant of the Masters volunteer cast member in Laguna Beach.

Casting call will be held at the Irvine Bowl Park (650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA) during the following times:

• Friday, January 6 from 7 - 9pm
• Saturday, January 7 from 7 - 9pm
• Sunday, January 8 from 2 - 5pm

If you're familiar with this blog, you'll know I was a volunteer when I was a college co-ed back in the 80's. I worked at the iconic Las Brisas restaurant during the day and was a Pageant volunteer at night. The show was double cast, so I performed 7 nights, then was off 7 nights.  If I had a conflict there were a number of ladies similar in size who could step in. So, volunteering was a breeze and an experience I'll never forget.  

Here's a pic of the painting we portrayed that summer. I was the gal in front with the blue dress and red ribbon in her hair. Trivia: the bottom part of the ballgowns was constructed with chickenwire and canvas. We stepped behind the chickenwire and flipped our short gowns over the chickenwire set to complete the illusion. So cool.

The backs of the gowns were held together with drawstrings. One night during the momentary blackout before our painting was to be displayed on stage, the gal playing Empress Eugenie leaned forward and pulled my strings loose. My gown threatened to slip down and expose me to the audience. I had to try very hard to hold still yet make sure my gown didn't fall off. Talk about a memory!

Empress Eugenie and the Ladies of her Court by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Casting Call is a fun experience for all involved. Prospective volunteers will be measured and photographed, enjoy refreshments and meet the behind-the-scenes Pageant staff. No theater experience is necessary. The only requirement is the ability to stand still and have fun.

Volunteering for the Pageant is a great way to spend your summer and it's common to have several generations of the same family volunteering for different aspects of the show. Additionally, by volunteering for the Pageant, students can earn credit towards community service requirements. 

"Over 500 volunteers, both onstage and behind-the-scenes, are needed to put on the show," said Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy. "Everyone has a great time backstage and many return year after year to take part in this one-of-a-kind performance. The Pageant just simply wouldn't be possible without our volunteers!"

Pageant volunteers are also needed for positions in the wardrobe, makeup and headdress departments, as well as cast area coordinators and refreshment servers, among other positions.

Summer performances of the Pageant of the Masters will run nightly at 8:30pm from July 7 to August 31, 2017. Please call (949) 494-3663 for additional information.

The 2017 Pageant of the Masters, The Grand Tour, will be staged July 7 through August 31. Ticket prices range from $15 to $230. Tickets are on sale now by calling 1-800-487-3378 or online at 

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